"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: books

sorting things out. . .


pink phlox from the garden. . .

pink phlox from the garden. . .

For awhile now, maybe a few years even, I’ve been having a tough time finding books that I enjoy and read all the way to the end (without skipping to the end.) I wondered why that was. As we all know, there are trends in writing, just as there are in films, movies and TV shows. There seems to be a kind of lemming-like aspect to lots of things that are trendy so if you don’t necessarily buy into nor enjoy what’s offered, you’re often out of luck. . . big time.

Enough complaining about that. What has happened to me today is that I started to sort out my books in earnest, pushing the flaps down on a dozen package store cardboard boxes and lining empty ones along the bookcase by the far wall in the room where the orchids thrive most of the time in the winter. The plants are flourishing now on the back wrought iron deck (that’s flooring, not railing) and watered well throughout the summer, much easier to do than dripping water all over the shelves inside.

The thing that has stymied me for awhile is getting enough shelf space opened up in order to start reorganizing the books I want to keep. Today, that process began as I was delighted to rediscover treasured books that I have owned and read in the past: books by writers like Alix Schulman, Iris Murdoch, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Paul Auster, Ursula Le Guin and Haruki Murakami. For an hour or two, I have been immersed in paging through some of these volumes, setting aside a stack that I’m going to read/re-read during breaks from cleaning out the house during the dog days of August. It has restored my faith in reading for pleasure while reinforcing the notion that “utopia is (already) in your own backyard.”

I managed to transport the heavy cartons of books by putting them on my handy, compact wheelchair that is still up here and stage them to an area waiting to be carried downstairs. Some fellows are coming by this week to help move our Steinway concert grand piano back from a rental to Nantucket. When the “guys” are in, I will ask them to carry the books downstairs and load them directly into the back of my Subaru Outback. Then, I’lll deliver them to the public library loading dock where someone with a dolly will help me unload them. Easy Piece-y.

I can already see the benefit of this book reorganization because now my favorite books are consolidated into a bookcase in the anteroom to my bedroom where I can see them shelved together, rather than being strewn here and there, all over the place. Having filled five boxes of discards already, I’ve made enough headway to keep going. It’s interesting also to note, not only the books that I want to keep and re-read, but the ones that I quickly decide to discard: novels that didn’t take, some self-help. energy and philosophy books that aren’t as good as the ones I’m keeping.

Meanwhile, I also have a couple of cartons, flatter and bigger than the book boxes to put kitchenware that’s obsolete or too worn to keep using (those skillets where food ALWAYS sticks, no matter what you do!) And, a new category of things too good to give away that someone might make a profit from (not me!) selling in their consignment shop. There’s a place down on Canal Street adjacent to a nascent farmers’ market (3 tables) that I walked through last weekend. There are vintage, everyday wares on display that young couples might want to furnish their first apartments with. Finding a new home for kitchenware would ease my conscience for having so much stuff!

So, stagnation seems to be moving along a little bit. (Hey, it’s the extra-big full moon today, isn’t it?) Sometimes a task seems so daunting that even after I’ve fetched all those empty boxes, it feels too burdensome to get started.

Now that it’s midday on Sunday, I feel like I can take a break and steam up some Asian roast pork buns for lunch. And have a tall glass of iced green tea with honey and ginseng. Then, I can settle down to reading books to my heart’s content.


onward and upward! . . .

katazomeI don’t think I really noticed how things had dissembled while both I and my husband have been so laid up for the past months and weeks. We put forth a lot of positive energy to travel up to Rockport for our granddaughter, A.’s high school graduation. It took about a week to finally unpack everything and to return some things with tags still on them that I decided not to wear. In fact, it was enlightening to me that during the “before” timeframe, thought I might want to wear more color and more prints. During that weekend, I felt more comfortable wearing my trusty LL Bean comfort trail khaki cropped pants and a dark blue linen v-neck tee-shirt. My new Birkenstock black leather sandals dressed up my outfit enough.

Since then, G. has been in almost constant pain with a dislocated bone in his hip area. Even though there were ultrasound treatments and a little adjustment to his vertebrae, he still has the dislocation and concomitant muscle and nerve pain radiating down his hip to his knee. We tried acupuncture yesterday and while it alleviated a little pain, it didn’t do the job. Today, he also had some ortho-massage for an hour and fifteen minutes which he felt might have improved things. At lunch, the color in his face was so much better–probably from the benefits of the massage to his circulatory system. Even so, any improvement was better than the stagnant situation he faced for the past couple of weeks.

In the meantime, we managed to try out and purchase an extra-firm mattress which is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning. Today, I took on all sorts of straightening out tasks and coordinated having some handicap equipment carried downstairs by G.’s guys who were here to help with a piano move; getting the strings for the morning glories retied to bricks so that the watered seedlings would be trained where to travel as their growth bursts forth during the warm weather. I also rearranged the kitchen cupboard so that things we use more often are now more accessible and tucked extra glasses and cups in the tall cupboard.

rearranged cupboard today . . .

rearranged cupboard today . . .

On a roll, I sorted out the bookstand that holds current magazines (Bon Appetit) and books “Bringing Nature Home,” a gorgeous flower/decorating book and one of my favorite books to derive housecleaning inspiration from, “Japanese Country Living.”

Cleaned out the small basket of mish-mash papers, stamps and miscellany next to my telephone/answering machine; AND, I spent more than two hours on the phone this morning with Apple Support, escalating all the way up to a senior advisor who helped me delete all sorts of start-up programs to rid my laptop of those annoying spinning balls that slow things down.

She also advised me to keep my laptop on a flat wooden table (not a leather ottoman) in order to keep it from overheating as it has been doing. I’ve had two major (send laptop to Memphis, TN) repairs made to the machine during the winter and spring, and wanted to ensure that if there was a further problem with the fan and overheating, that I would make it under the warranty window. We’ll wait and see but the laptop is much quicker afterwards than before so my fingers are crossed.

I don’t know if it’s awfully tedious for you to read about these mundane activities and if so, my apologies. However, I’ve begun to feel, just today, that maybe we aren’t just going to keep descending into a vortex of helplessness and even, that maybe, things might get a little better, day by day. G.’s nephew came by this afternoon (he’s a senior in college) and we talked about some projects that he could help with this summer. Fetching a bunch of liquor store empty cartons, bringing them upstairs here so that I can fill them with books to be donated to our public library would be a good start. Then, we’ll figure out how to clean out the pantry and the closets where I have things that are too good to give away and also a pain in the neck to sell on eBay. I might try it though because if I am incentivized to at least take a thorough inventory, it might be the most common sense way to truly clean things out.bookshelves today

So, the morning glories are planted, staked and watered (it’s taken us this long just to get someone to turn on the water valve to the outside faucets!) the bathroom detritus has been cleared out and the sink/shelves sparkle; the laundry is done, brought up by C. and folded by me; the books/magazines have been de-cluttered from our living space; the big kitchen table made of curly maple is also cleared off with a vintage Katazome indigo runner on it (a tortoise and a phoenix gracing the pattern.) I brought the big cherry tray with pottery etc. into the bedroom as a way station until we feel like having it out again.

Supper is already made: I browned some onions and ground beef to make homemade sloppy joes for dinner, served on wheat toast and accompanied by some deviled eggs. We still have some yummy strawberry-rhubarb compote that we’ve been eating for dessert with some Haagen Daz ice cream. I don’t know why my spirits are so lifted after a day of what might be interpreted as drudgery house-keeping tasks, but it’s because it LOOKS wonderful in here now, or at least much better than it has in a long time. So onward and upward, as they say. Nothing stays the same, even when things seem abysmal . . . and that’s a good thing, as Martha Stewart might add.

everything's coming up roses! (or at least a few might be . . .)

everything’s coming up roses! (or at least a few might be . . .)

gift . . .

DSC_0819With all the flotsam and jetsam that floats by each day, it is heartening to read a book that engages, entertains and edifies one’s view on life, all at the same time. Such is “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert. As you might recall, she became famous for her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love” which sold 10 million copies, was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and which has made her rich enough to begin rebuilding (including buying houses for friends) a small town in New Jersey where she lives with a husband whom she married to ensure he could stay in the U.S.A. on a green card. You might think that would be enough to handle in the past few years, along with setting up a shop of imported wares like Buddhas and other Asian things that her husband manages.

But no, apparently, that’s not been enough to occupy her time/life. With the publication of “The Signature of All Things,” Elizabeth Gilbert reveals that she has been busy researching 18th and 19th century botanical history, including the commerce of ocean trade between the West and obscure locations yielding up medicinal plants and potions that ebbed and flowed with plagues, fevers, malaria and other illnesses that could not be treated otherwise than with exotic potions and herbs. She has constructed a tale (that’s the only word for it) of a family, and especially a heroine named Alma Whittaker who is not pretty but is very intelligent, feisty and hard-working who perseveres through a life of disappointments and wishes that go unfulfilled in unwinsome ways. That this story is told in a narrative fashion (“telling” rather than “showing” through dialogue) is a huge relief because stories matter and I’m so glad to be able to simply read for pleasure without having to deal with all the annoying current artificial fads in writing/publishing.

That being said, another bonus in the writing is that for me, at least, the narrator’s voice sounds awfully familiar to that of Jane Austen. In fact, I enjoyed reading this book much more than some Jane Austen’s novels because the humor and wit come easy, comes often and is awe-inspiring in its light touch. So, it even kind of out-Austens Jane, but seems so effortless that it’s not a contest, just fun.

To be honest, I read a lot and am one of those readers who, unless engaged and interested, do not suffer books (or fools) gladly. This is the first book in a long time that I marveled at while laughing out loud. I also appreciated the more sobering discussions about the relationships of all things, (never mind the signature as explained in the novel,) and the spirited attitude of the heroine. I can’t wait to read it again, more slowly this time, and savor the writing of someone who has already won the writing lottery with “Eat, Pray, Love,” a book that I wanted to throw across the room numerous times except for the “Pray” section. Now, against some odds, she has succeeded in writing literature. No wonder Elizabeth Gilbert is smiling in the photos that accompany the book. She’s done what many of us want to accomplish in our lives: to be original in our creativity, to persevere until it is finished and to be published. I wish I had come up with something like this. But it’s more than enough pleasure for me just to hold this volume in my hands and to know I can read it more than once and enjoy it more fully after an astonishing first time through. What a gift!